The United States will continue to work with other nations to address the range of Iranian malign influences, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee today.
Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the panel on the fiscal year 2019 defense budget request. The secretary also discussed President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the United States and European allies negotiated with Iran in 2015.
The pact was aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program.
“Yesterday, President Trump announced the administration's decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, terminating U.S. participation, and re-imposing sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Mattis told the subcommittee. “We will continue to work alongside our allies and partners to ensure that Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, and we'll work with others to address the range of Iran's malign influence. This administration remains committed to putting the safety, interests and well-being of our citizens first.”
Iran is a prime disturber of the peace throughout the Middle East, defense officials have said, and the plan, as it stands, does nothing to curtail the Iranian regimes malign activities. “[Syrian strongman Bashir] Assad is still in power today, still murdering his own people and still creating refugee flows that we've not seen before based on the support out of Iran,” Mattis said.
But Iran’s activities are not limited to Syria as their influence extends into Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain, defense officials have said. The Houthi movement in Yemen, a Shiite group, has fired missiles made in Tehran at Saudi Arabia, defense officials have said.
“We have not seen any drawdown or reduction in Iran's malicious activities and malign activities across the region,” the secretary said.
The secretary stressed that the United States will continue to work with allies to “try to bring Iran back into more responsible behavior.”
Iran needs to be confronted not just for its nuclear program, Mattis said, but for its development of ballistic missiles, support for terrorism, launching of cyberattacks and threats to international commerce.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)